Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Bucktoothed Tree Terrorists Must Pay

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Squirrel Party Time is Over

I am a hunter now.

The great thing about calling yourself a hunter is that you don’t have to accomplish anything in order to justify it. All you have to do is take a gun and sit in the woods for a while. This is pretty much what I did.

The word “hunter” doesn’t imply success of any type.

I don’t like squirrels because they plant live oak trees and because I fully expect them to eat the berries from the bushes I’ve planted. I remember how they used to cut mangoes off my trees in Miami, just to hear them hit the ground. And they annoy me when I drive; I have trained myself not to take my foot off the gas. A while back I decided to get a revenge hunting license and see if I could make a dent in the local population.

Yesterday, I went out in the woods in the afternoon and sat in a clearing with no gun. I just wanted to see what the squirrel situation was. I heard barking all over the place. It was a squirrel-bark symphony. I saw a couple of squirrels climbing in the trees. I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to nail some in the future.

Today I went back, and I learned that squirrels can tell when you’re hunting. I didn’t hear a bark for an hour and a half. Little creeps.

I sat on a downed tree for a while and waited. I heard a noise to my left. I looked, and a squirrel was on a tree trunk about 20 feet away in the x direction and 20 feet up in the y direction.

Years of math have affected the way I express myself. Be glad I didn’t use spherical polar coordinates.

Okay. R(squirrel) = 23.5. Theta = pi/4. Phi = pi/4. Satisfied?

I probably could have nailed the squirrel, but I would have been shooting upward, and I was holding a .22. A rifle slug will go a long way after missing a squirrel. I didn’t feel like spending the evening telling the Florida Highway Patrol why I shot out a window a mile away, so I let the rodent flee.

I know I should use a shotgun, but man, I love rifles. I like accurate shooting. Where is the pleasure in using birdshot? Anyone can shoot, when the projectiles cover half a steradian (sorry).

It doesn’t matter. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know how to dispose of the body. I had a plastic trash bag with me in case I hit anything, but even if I had used it, I would have had to get on the web to get instructions. I know about cutting the leg joints and cutting the head off and all that, but how much time do you get? And what are you supposed to use to do the cutting? Not my nice pocket knife! No way! How would I get it clean enough to put it back in my pocket?

When I was a kid, I shot rabbits in Kentucky. Here’s how I dealt with the meat: I handed the dead rabbits to my grandmother. That option is no longer available.

Once your squirrel is butchered, how do you clean your hands? You can’t just grab your gun with fingers covered with blood, poop, bile, and squirrel pee.

Maybe I need to take a backpack with disposable gloves. Seems a little precious, though.

I may try again tomorrow. The squirrels are taunting me, and I find their behavior inexcusable.

Time is on my Side

Friday, January 19th, 2018

Yes it Is

Suddenly I find myself gifted with something I did not expect: free time.

I had a horrendous time making the move up here, and then Irma came and made things 20 times worse. I had to buy 3 chainsaws. I burned one tree after another. I ended up with 3 different pairs of work boots, 5 pairs of Carhartt jeans, suspenders, and 2 pairs of overalls. Not to mention a collection of baseball caps, which you actually need for farm work because the sun is annoying and things hit you in the face all the time. I was busy, busy, busy.

Now things have slowed down. It turns out you don’t absolutely have to get rid of every downed tree on a property right away. Once you dispose of the ones that block roads, land on fences, threaten passing cars, mash your chicken coop, and so on, it’s not imperative that you maintain a fierce pace cutting up the ones lying on their sides in the woods. I will be moving trees for a long time, so there is no point in getting in a hurry. Also, it appears that the bugs are capable of disintegrating a live oak in under 2 years, so they will probably end up doing much of the work.

Here’s another interesting thing: the grass stopped growing. Things grew quickly here when I arrived, but once we had a couple of freezes, the landscaping workload looked very different. I can’t mow. I’m afraid to plant things. Some things I used to trim are either dead or playing possum. Mainly, I just clean up. And now I have child labor to help. My friend Amanda has 3 boys just the right size to be exploited by a non-recycling, yoga-hating, organic-food-ridiculing conservative. We are teaching them capitalism by forcing them to pick up sticks in my yard, for a suitably unconscionable weekly pittance.

I think putting the boys to work was a good move. They will learn that you can’t spend your whole life playing video games all day, and because they will get to spend some of the money, they will learn that affluence and work are connected. And they’re doing man’s work, which is fun. I taught them how to drive the EZ-GO and run the dump bed, and they zip around all over the place, presumably feeling important and grown up. Kids need that. You can’t give people responsibility without authority. It’s demoralizing. Ask a Border Patrol agent.

When my friend Mike was here, he was an even better overseer. He had them throwing stuff on the burn pile while it was actively burning. Don’t know if Amanda knows that. Mike is very good with kids, especially compared to the DNA source who abandoned these boys.

Mike is coming tomorrow. I guess we will devise new torments for them. And they WILL like it. I told him he is the guest slave driver.

Their attitude is great. I think the money helped. The first time they worked, it was a gift to me from their mom, and after a short time, one of them came up to me and said, “Can we be done now?” That is changing.

My biggest contribution to their upbringing is Frisbee. Somehow they ended up throwing one of my disks, and I found out they didn’t have proper Frisbees. I got each one a Diskraft disk (better than Frisbees) for Christmas. They are starting to get it. Sometimes a disk will make it all the way to an intended recipient, and I have seen a few catches.

Wham-O brand Frisbees are Chinese these days, so Diskraft is the way to go.

Boys are like car engines. They function best under a load. You have to give them things to do. I know this because my parents did not do this.

To return to the point, I am less busy now, and it makes me nervous. I feel like there is something I should be doing. Of course, that’s true. There is always something I should be doing. But I wonder if I’m missing anything.

I now have time to exercise and practice music. I didn’t expect that. I took up the mandolin, banjo, and guitar again, and this week I started looking at piano instruction.

Amanda’s boys need to learn music, if they want to be civilized, so I have been helping her find options. Lessons would be great, but they’re not cheap. One son wants to learn piano, and another likes the guitar. The third mentioned the saxophone.

I can help a little with the guitar, and I recommended a site called Justin Guitar for materials and videos. It’s not a teacher, but it should be helpful. For piano, I found something new: Playground Sessions. Quincy Jones is the “co-creator,” which probably means someone paid him money to use his picture.

I tried Playground Sessions myself, and I am impressed. You download free software and pay a small fee every month. You get video lessons and interactive sheet music. You connect a MIDI keyboard to the computer, and you play along with the software. You get background music and a countdown, and you get a score every time you try to play something. They have a real program, not just random pieces, and you learn things in an order that builds your skills. I really like it. It’s what I was looking for years ago when I tried Adventus Piano Suite, which is a very annoying piece of software which sort of comes close to teaching piano.

If you want to learn to play an instrument, you really need to learn to sight-read and play with accompaniment. I learned to play the banjo using tablature and my memory, and it was a very bad choice. It was better than no music at all, but I was musically illiterate. It’s a gigantic handicap. And if you can’t play along with other people, you’re useless most of the time, and you won’t be able to connect with anyone else musically. Also, your timing will be bad.

Learn to sight-read. Learn to play in a group. If you can’t do these things, you’re a crippled musician. Like me.

Cutting news websites out of my life increased my free time. I used to look at them periodically throughout the day. Now I start to look at Drudge, and I remember I don’t do that any more. Then I have to find a way to fill the time I’m not wasting. I still glance at the news, but not much.

I can read again. I can exercise. I may start to do things with tools again, and I mean things not involving dead trees.

If you’re interested in piano, take a look at Playground Sessions. It may be a good idea even if you’re taking lessons. If you have a spacy teacher who isn’t organized, look at it and find out what he or she should be teaching you.

Time to practice.

The Sad, Slow Cars of the 1960’s

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Stay Away From the Old Lady in the Camry

I feel like writing about trivial things today.

First of all, today and yesterday I watched Bullitt all the way through. I record old movies on the Turner channel so I have things to watch during meals or when the birds are out of their cages, and Bullitt turned up on the program guide, so I saved it.

What do people love about Bullitt? The car chase. Two 1968 cars. The bad guys drive a Dodge Charger R/T with a 440 in it (375 HP). McQueen drives an “iconic” (tired of that word) Mustang GT fastback with a 390 (325 HP). The Charger falls apart during the chase. The bad guys run into things. They can’t get away from McQueen, and they get sloppy.

Here is the funny reality: according to the guys who made the film, the Mustangs (2) used in the chase were so much slower than the Chargers, the bad guys had to go easy on the gas. They could have pulled away from the Ford and ruined the chase for everyone. Here’s another sad fact about the overrated Ford: no positraction. I noticed that on my own. McQueen took off from a dead start, spinning ONE rear wheel. He left one long black stripe on the pavement, not two. Who in his right mind buys a fast car with one rear wheel that spins?

I think “positraction” is technically a GM term. I use it loosely. It refers to a limited-slip differential that causes both rear tires to apply force to the pavement. If you don’t have positraction, you can end up in a situation where all of your power goes to one wheel which spins without moving the car forward.

It would be ridiculous for a motorhead to buy a fast car without positraction. It’s even more ridiculous that the sharp professionals who prepared the Ford and Dodge for the chase didn’t insist on it. They knew it would look silly if the car spun its right rear wheel. I guess they had no choice.

I decided to look up the performance numbers for these “legendary” cars. Get ready to laugh. The Charger ran the quarter in 14.9 seconds, and the Ford was measured at 14.8. Is that good? Well, it’s better than the 16-second car I drove in high school, which was crippled by 1970’s greenie technology. But how fast is it today? Let me pick a car at random. I love doing this. Let’s see what a Honda Accord will do.

I have the numbers. A Honda Accord with an automatic transmission, four doors, and no cool Hurst shifter will do the quarter in 14.1 seconds. It will make it to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds. This the “sporty” Accord, to be fair, but nonetheless, it’s a mom-mobile that mops the floor with a real Bullitt Mustang and a 1968 Dodge Charger R/T. Too funny.

The Accord also pulls 0.88 g on the skidpad, which is so much better than a 1970’s Corvette (the American handling champion), it’s in a different universe.

Think how hard Dodge and Ford worked to get those awful numbers. The Dodge had a 7-liter engine and God only knows how many special motorhead parts on it. The Accord has a 2-liter engine, and it probably doesn’t even have any cool stickers on the fenders.

Only the Dodge was a muscle car. The Mustang was not. A muscle car is a big grocery hauler with a huge engine inserted for compensation. A small car like a Mustang is actually made to go fast, from square one. The Mustang and Camaro were scaled down to make them fast. They were called “pony cars,” either because of their size or because of the chrome pony on the Mustang grill. Which you would see a lot, in your rear-view mirror, if you raced it in an Accord.

Another interesting fact: Ford loaned the Mustangs to the filmmakers, and they also provided two bigger cars for the bad guys. The big cars couldn’t handle the San Francisco bounces, so they had to use Dodges. Embarrassing for Ford. The cars in the film had modified suspensions, so it appears that the big Fords couldn’t cope, even with expert help.

I’m a bad person for saying it, but if they redid the movie today with four Honda Accords, the speeds would be way higher, and everyone would have Bluetooth, so they could curse at each other over their cell phones: “Not cool, bro [frowny emoticon].” And what if the bad guys drove the baddest 1968 muscle car available, and McQueen drove an Accord? It would be painful to watch.

It seems like the big difference between real muscle cars and the crummy ones they produced after 1972 was low-end acceleration. I may be wrong, but the pre-1973 0-60 times seem more impressive than the quarter-mile times. I guess when the 1973 cars lost a second and a half in the quarter, most of it came from the 0-60 part.

I read up on Steve McQueen. It turns out he pretty much was the guy he played. He was very good with cars and motorcycles. He was good enough to compete professionally. He was a black belt in some martial art or other. He grew up in reform schools. He ran away and joined a circus. He was a merchant marine. He was a non-merchant Marine. He saved five guys from tank that was about to sink through broken ice. He got in trouble in the Marines, reformed, and ended up guarding Harry Truman’s yacht. He did his own stunts.

Maybe they should have filmed his life instead of his roles.

He also treated women like dirt. Oh, well.

He visited with Billy Graham before he died from mesothelioma, and when he died, he was holding a Bible Graham gave him. Good news.

Unrelated matter: today my pipes froze. I did not expect that in northern Florida, at 25 degrees, after only a few hours. I left the water dripping from the faucets that aren’t attached to the house. I figured the faucets that go through house walls would be protected. I didn’t do anything to protect the house pump or the farm pump. Got up today and had no water at the tap. It took several hours for things to thaw out. Now I’m wondering what I should do tonight. I feel like I need to leave one faucet running indoors, to keep warm water moving through the pump and pressure tank. I don’t think things get bad enough here to crack pipes, but I may be wrong.

If I lived in Montana, I would know what to do. If I lived in Key West, I would know what to do. Here, I’m in a sort of climate twilight where you apparently have to take limited measures.

I don’t know if my citrus trees will survive. Two of them are worthless to begin with. One is a sick grapefruit tree which does not produce edible fruit, and the other is a sick ponderosa lemon. No one wants a ponderosa lemon. They don’t taste as good as real lemons. The third tree is a sick cara cara navel. It would be good to keep, as long as it was well enough to produce, but I have no way of protecting it. It may have bought the farm last night. It has citrus greening, so it’s doomed, but another year or two would have been nice.

I can replace it with a mandarin that will resist citrus greening, but I can’t find new trees, and it would be about two years before I got fruit.

I do not know how to cope with landscaping here, because I don’t know what dies in the winter and what doesn’t. My plan is to protect nothing and replace the dead stuff with things that don’t have to be babied. Perhaps rocks.

The climate control system is mystifying. In Miami, when it gets below 40, you freeze. The builders don’t prepare houses for the cold. Every time cold weather hits, the supply of space heaters gets snapped up overnight. People rely on them to heat their homes. It’s stupid. Now I live in a house that has a real heating system, but I can’t get it to work right.

This house has 2 AC units and 4 thermostats, plus a computer that connects the units. When the power goes out, the computer (which has no backup battery) loses its programming, and the smaller unit stops turning on. That’s annoying. I had to figure out how to program it in order to avoid repeated $75 service calls. Now I find that when the weather gets into the 30’s, the upstairs gets very hot on one side of the house. My bedroom goes up to 79 degrees when it’s freezing outside. I have had to open a window.

I think the heat from downstairs must be coming up a stairwell. This is my best guess. I think the heat goes upstairs, the downstairs doesn’t get hot enough to shut off the downstairs thermostat, and I lie and sweat. My answer is to turn off the upstairs heat, put a space heater near the birds downstairs, and turn the downstairs heat down to 70. Seems to work, but I suppose I’ll have to call the experts eventually to find out if there is something I don’t know.

This house has real insulation and real windows, unlike most Miami houses. When you turn on the AC in a Miami house older than 30 years, you air condition the whole neighborhood. The cold air goes out through floors, ceilings, windows, and doors. It’s wonderful to live in a house where the cold air stays in.

I am addicted to my new housecoat and houseshoes. Cold weather has its down side, but at least you get to lounge around in a cozy robe and shearling shoes.

Enough exciting news, I guess. Time to read up on faucets and frost.

Tales of the Tundra

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Laying the Smackdown on Mother Nature

I am still not used to living here in the frigid north.

Since moving to the Ocala area, I have encountered a number of strange phenomena I didn’t have to deal with in Miami. Here’s an example: up here, leaves fall off the trees.

Yes, some trees in South Florida lose their leaves. But most don’t, and generally, the ones that do, drop their leaves in the spring. Up here, almost every tree is a live oak, and they drop their leaves continuously throughout the cool months. I think. We also have real trees such as maples, and they shed, too.

Once the leaves fall, they’re on the lawn, and then what do you do with them?

My strategy of ignoring them and figuring they would evaporate has worked out poorly. Live oak leaves are like heavy postage stamps that never rot. They glue themselves to everything around them, forming a crappy mat of death that kills grass.

The lawn is in considerably worse shape than it was when I arrived.

I looked around for answers. One dude on a forum told me to run my mower over the leaves and mulch them. I tried it. Most of the leaves ignored the mower and held onto the ground like baby poo holds onto a new couch. The rest blew out the side and landed a few feet away, where they continued killing the grass.

I found out my mower isn’t set up for mulching. As I understand it, a mulching mower doesn’t shoot leaves out. It has a plugged leaf port or whatever it’s called. The leaves and clippings are confined under the deck for as long as possible, permitting the mower to chew it up.

I didn’t know much about mulching, but I knew one thing: I was not going to rake. That was unthinkable.

I found out John Deere makes a mulching kit. For $270, they will sell you $100 worth of parts to screw onto your mower. It’s a plug for the leaf exit, plus some sheet metal to help confine things. They also throw in 3 mulching blades, which, I guess, are blades that mulch better.

I ordered the kit, and I also ordered 3 Gator mulching blades from another company. These blades have little flap sort of things cut into their trailing edges. I think they’re supposed to create more leaf-sucking turbulence.

Now I have to take the deck off the mower, turn it over, and install all this stuff. I get to roll 345 pounds of metal over, by myself. Fun.

I already know the leaves won’t come off the ground just because I have a mulching kit. That would be out of character for them. I decided I needed something else, to loosen the leaves up before mowing. I checked a bunch of options, and I bought an acreage rake. If you’ve ever seen a hay rake, you’ve seen a large version of an acreage rake. It has a bunch of pinwheel-looking things on it, and they move debris into a neat row behind your garden tractor. Presumably this will make the mulching kit happy.

I don’t know if this will work, but it’s cheaper than the next-best option, which is covering the whole yard with pine bark.

The mulching kit is here, and I’m preparing to install it. No word on the arrival of the rake yet.

I also discovered that some of my plants were not freezeproof. We had a light freeze, and my much-hated ixora bush partially withered. I also lost most of a weird flowering thing at the base of a tree. The weeds all did fine, naturally.

I asked my friend Amanda what was going on, and she said people up here–this is not something I’m making up–run out in their yards before freezes and put sheets over their delicate little snowflake plants. Seriously. Grown people, wrapping plants in sheets.

Here’s how I see it: the freeze helped me identify weak plants I need to kill. I’m not going to run around the yard wrapping things in sheets. If a plant dies, it was never intended to be here.

I think I understand what happened. The previous owners came from Virginia. They saw Ocala as a place where they might be able to grow cool tropical plants. I came from Miami. I see it as a place where I can grow cool temperate-zone plants. They probably wanted mangoes and coconuts. I never want to see those things again. I hate Miami worse than hemorrhoids. I want chestnuts, blackberries, apples, peaches, penguins, and polar bears.

Yesterday I took my neat lithium-ion hedge trimmer and ripped out about half of the frostbitten ixora. Eventually I’ll take the tractor’s front end loader and tear it out of the ground while cackling helplessly. Ixoras remind me of Miami, and besides, they’re ugly.

I plan to plant manly plants that laugh, audibly, at cold fronts.

Another new scourge: moles. They’re real. I thought they only existed in Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Seriously, there is an animal that swims in dirt.

I noticed that my yard was getting mushy, but I didn’t know why. I had a dim impression that it might be huge colonies of earthworms. Then I saw that patches of grass were dying. Moles were tunneling under the grass, cutting the roots.

I researched moles and learned that most methods of getting rid of them are totally worthless.

You can buy little spikes with solar-powered noisemakers in them. They’re supposed to annoy the moles. In reality, the moles either don’t care, or they only care for a short time. Then they come back.

You can also buy live traps. When your moles are caught, you can pick them up and pitch them into the next yard, which, hopefully, they will like better than yours. The problem here is that moles have very little fat and don’t store energy well. A mole can starve in a few hours. That means live traps are really less-humane death traps. Instead of killing your mole cleanly, you leave it to die slowly, in agony. So if you use “humane” traps, you have to run outside around the clock to check them.

Yeah. That’s totally going to happen. I wouldn’t get up every 3 hours for chemotherapy.

Why do all these worthless mole products exist? I think the answer is women. Moles are very cute, and women don’t like killing cute things. I think they get out their rolling pins when their husbands get in the car to go to Tractor Supply, and they beat them until they promise not to buy real traps.

I don’t distinguish between cute pests and ugly ones. If they were wrecking my grass, I’d set traps for baby ducks. It’s sad and all that, but life is what it is. I’m planning to kill all of my squirrels, even though they’re cute. My dad is against it. He has been throwing orange peels in the yard to feed them.

Yes, orange peels. It didn’t make any sense to me either. Don’t make me digress.

When my dad was a kid, his neighbors used to pay him to drown kittens. He has really changed, and of course, he changed when it would inconvenience me.

I got a scissor trap. It pinches moles nearly in half. Great invention, but it’s hard to use here, because you have to be able to see your mole tunnels clearly in able to set it. It’s hard to tell where my tunnels begin and end. I went for another option: carbon monoxide. You can buy an adaptor that connects and exhaust pipe to a garden hose. They probably shouldn’t sell these to depressed female college students. Anyway, you pipe gas into your mole tunnels, and the moles quietly expire and rot, out of sight. And you can tell your wife, truthfully, that Mr. and Mrs. Mole went beddy-bye and woke up in happy land.

If you really want your moles gone fast, there is a propane-based tool that blows them out of the ground. Some Youtube genius built one. This guy is amazing. He composed a tune for background music. He played all the instruments. Then he killed a tremendous number of moles on video, and he timed the explosions to match the beat. You have to see it. I’ll embed it here.

Is that great, or what? The obvious downside is that the weapon does far more damage to your yard than moles. I think the real purpose has little to do with yard maintenance and everything to do with revenge.

You can also shoot flammable gas into mole tunnels with an ordinary torch and light them. It’s a molocaust. A molepocalypse. Armolegeddon.

I bought a car exhaust adaptor, and I plan to get a special short hose and get to work. No suffering for the moles, and my yard should recover in less than ten years.

I’m wondering if water would drive them out. I could fill the tunnels while standing by with a .22. But I already have the gas thing.

When I moved here, I did not realize I would have to kill almost everything I saw. I would love to get along with all the bugs and bunnies and duckies, but it looks like I’ll be spending a good deal of my time killing, killing, killing. Live oak trees. Mosquitoes. Squirrels. Moles. Wimpy shrubs. Poison ivy. If you come to visit me, you should probably wear an orange vest and carry some form of ID. I am more dangerous than Happy Fun Ball with PMS.

Web Logs

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

Plus Fascinating Shoe Information

Today is a busy day for me, so I am procrastinating. I should be out buying an upholstery needle and a spare folding table, but instead I will tell you about the stump I cut yesterday.

The huge oak that fell on my chicken house is long gone, but the stump lingered until yesterday. It was intimidating. I didn’t think my tractor could pick it up, and it was thicker than my 20″ chainsaw is long. Also, it was down on the ground were cutting it would be difficult. Yesterday I decided to give it a shot.

I had to cut from both sides, and cutting from the bottom was not possible, so there was no way to fix it so it would not split at the bottom. I cut for around 10 minutes, and finally, the free part dropped.

I took my handy-dandy timberjack, and with a lot of effort, I managed to start the log moving away from the rest of the stump. This is when I discovered the split. The log had split at the bottom, and there was still a strap of wood attaching it to the stump. I opened the kerf up so I could get at the strap, and I cut it with the tip of the saw.

Once the log was free, I moved it a couple of feet so the tractor forks could get at it, and I put the tines on the ground beside it. I used the timberjack to roll it onto the forks. Not easy, which told me the log was really heavy.

When I got it onto the forks, I hopped on the tractor and cranked the tines upward. The log moved, much to my relief. It rolled back toward the tractor. I then lifted the forks, and the log was free of the ground.

It’s a big relief to know I can move things this heavy, because I have a lot of them.

I took the tractor down to the gate by the highway, and I drove through the gate. Cars were whizzing by at maybe 70. I had planned to drive down the right-of-way and dump the log maybe 50 yards from the gate, but I would have been driving into traffic, and it made me nervous. There isn’t a lot of traffic here, but I picked the busiest time of the day, and such traffic as we have really moves.

I settled for dumping the log by the driveway. In the photo, it’s at the base of the pile by the road.

The county has given people until November 27 to get everything to the side of the road. It’s not looking good. Let me rephrase: it’s impossible. But I can move a few really annoying things into their lap, and it will be worth the effort.

When I was done, I tried something crazy. I put the front end loader down on the dirt above the stump, and I pushed. The stump rocked back. That surprised me. I was trying to rock it back into its hole. I didn’t succeed, but I made a big difference.

Now that I have put in some hours in two different pairs of work boots, I have drawn a conclusion. I like Danners better than Keens. My Keens give great protection, and unlike the Danners, they came with toe caps that prevent cuts to the leather, but the factory insoles are like concrete. They felt better when I bought them, but I suppose I have compacted them. I looked into aftermarket insoles, but Keen’s site says the Braddock boot is not compatible with them. I don’t know how that can be true. Keen makes insoles, though. I sent Keen a message asking whether their own insoles would work.

I am sorely tempted to get a shorter version of the Danners I bought. These boots are wonderful. The toes are vulnerable to cuts, but I solved the problem by applying KG Toe Guard to them. The Danners are selling for a little over a hundred bucks right now, which is crazy. Maybe the toe issue offended other consumers, and Danner is trying to unload the boots and discontinue them.

My Keens are American. My Danners are from somewhere else. Wild guess: China. People say to avoid foreign Danners, but my experience with them has been great, and at a hundred bucks, it’s hard to go wrong. If they last half as long, so what? They cost half as much.

When I’m rolling heavy logs, I’m very grateful for safety toes. Yesterday I imagined that severed stump rolling back on my toe. It weighs hundreds of pounds. It would not have done my toes any good. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it would have pressed my foot into the ground and then broken my leg.

Logging is not for the stupid. You have to think of all the physical possibilities in advance. Otherwise, you learn about them on the fly, very suddenly.

Wood seems to rot very quickly here. Maybe my problems aren’t as bad as they seem. Maybe my fallen trees will disappear in a couple of years if I get them on the ground and kill them with diesel. When I visited this place in the summer, there was a fallen log that looked fairly solid, and it’s disintegrating now.

I have to order some blackberry briars, and I have to make some decisions about new hedges. The sellers installed maybe six different kinds of hedge. Too busy. I need one bulletproof hedge species. A number of the existing hedges are looking crappy; I suppose hedge plants don’t last forever. It’s time to remove a section and plant something new. I figure I can do this about four times a year, and by next winter, the house will look a lot better.

The sellers put some truly worthless plants by the workshop. The shop has a porch with pillars, and each pillar has its own disappointing ornamental plant. I think I should do blackberries on each end and leave the middle pillar alone. Or maybe it would be best to do some kind of ground cover all the way across.

Blueberries do very well here, so I’ll need those, too. I can also grow kiwifruit and raspberries.

If you want ten or twenty tons of free firewood, and you want to cut it yourself, let me know. I’m the guy to see. Otherwise, I’ll just sit here and root for the termites.

Wood Removal Progress

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Facing my Tractor Fears

Today I overcame one of my big fears. I drove the tractor on the right-of-way by my farm, parallel to the road, leaning over, with a big log on the front end loader. And I did not roll the tractor and die.

Marion County and FEMA are sending trucks to carry off Irma debris, and it’s a huge gift to citizens. I can’t even guess what it would cost to pay a tree service to haul tons of wood off my land. Free is preferable. The problem is that it’s not easy to get trees cut and moved. I’m alone, I didn’t have the right tools or access to the whole farm until some time after the storm, and the only place where I can put the trees and count on having them picked up is along a scary ditch.

The free pickups will not last forever, and I am way behind.

My property consists of two adjoining lots that abut a highway. One lot is at the top of a hill. When cars approach that lot, they are approaching a high place. They can’t see past it. The area by the road is fairly flat, and it would be a great place to put wood, but I would have to drive the tractor right beside the road in a place where drivers doing 70 would be very surprised to see me.

The other lot is easy for approaching drivers to see, but it has a lot of growth on the right-of-way, and the ditch is not as flat. This is the safest place to put things, but I was putting it off because of the ditch’s slope.

Somebody in the government surprised me by coming by with some kind of machine (which I never saw) and cutting back the brush by the road. That’s a huge help. Now I can go up and down the lot with the tractor well off the road. The trees and shrubs don’t obstruct my path. With the obstructions gone, the only things preventing me from dumping trees were cowardice and laziness.

Today I drove the Kubota down to the end of the lot and moved a few big logs down the ditch and dumped them. It wasn’t bad at all. I kept the bucket low so the tractor’s center of gravity would be down by the ground, and I moved carefully. Everything worked out well.

If I really work at it, I may be able to get rid of a third of my big logs before the government bails on me. A third is better than nothing.

After I moved the logs, I went back to the area by the house and picked up a 12-foot-long trunk. I wanted to see if the Kubota could lift it. No problem. I took it to the gate between the house and the burn pile, and I raised it so I could get through the gate. Then I lowered it again and took it out by the pile. My friend Mike was here over the weekend, and he played with the tractor. He dumped a lot of wood not far from the pile. I decided to add the trunk.

I lifted the trunk, because you have to have the loader up high in order to lower the forks and drop things. Then I dropped the trunk. The rear wheels of the tractor either left the ground or tried to, and the tractor tilted to the left. This all happened very quickly, and then the trunk fell clear and the tractor righted itself.

This was not quite what I was hoping to see.

For a fraction of a second, I wondered whether I was in the process of rolling the tractor over. On myself. My new lesson: avoid dropping heavy objects quickly. I don’t think I’ll need to repeat the lesson. It made a pretty deep impression on me.

Maybe I should start using the safety belt. I don’t want to overreact, but it’s just possible that I need to start buckling it.

The weather here is very nice now. Working outdoors is much easier than it was a month ago. Sadly, there is more dust, because the ground is dry. But I’ll take dust over mosquitoes, sweat, and heat stroke.

I can’t burn anything in this weather. The other day I was near the burn pile, and I used my plumber’s torch to light the grass by my feet. It did not go out. The fire started spreading. Once I was sure it was not going to die down on its own, I stamped it out. My experiment told me what I needed to know. No burning until it starts raining again. Everthing I can’t put by the road will have to sit and molder.

I’m getting better at taking care of this place. I may conceivably develop the necessary skills before the farm disintegrates from neglect. I have chain saws, two leaf blowers, a string trimmer, and a lithium-ion hedge trimmer that has to be seen to be believed. I’ve learned how to kill unwanted plants with diesel. I’m starting to understand how badly the previous owners chose ornamental plants, and what I need to do to fix it. I’ve even boned up on good choices for tree planting. I’m thinking chestnuts, black walnuts, peaches, and maybe a persimmon.

I feel nervous about killing and burning a bunch of plants and trees the sellers clearly worked hard to put here, but it has to be done. I have like eight different types of shrubs around the house. I need to cut back to one or two. I have the ugliest, most oddly situated magnolia trees on earth. They need to be cut down. I have 70-foot live oaks 50 feet from my house, killing the grass and threatening to fall on me. They have to go.

I have three citrus trees, and I’m pretty sure every one has citrus greening. The fruit are disgusting. And what fruit they are. Navel oranges! The Ford Granada of oranges. No juice, no flavor, and hard to peel. Tiny grapefruit. Ponderosa lemons.

A ponderosa lemon is a ridiculous lemon-like fruit which is nearly as big as a grapefruit. People call them lemons, but they have no taste other than tasting sour. In Miami, damaged citrus trees are famous for dying back to trunks which sprout ponderosas. I guess they’re used for root stock. Anyway, it’s a pathetic fruit. I suppose you could use them to add acidity to food.

There are a lot of great citrus fruits to choose from. Best of all, hands down: the tangelo, also known as the minneola or honeybell. It’s like a giant orange that tastes a hundred times better, and you can peel them with your fingers. Another winner: the tangerine. But if you have tangelos, tangerines are somewhat superfluous. Pummelos are great. A pummelo is a gigantic, dry-fleshed grapefruit which is very sweet. Persian limes are good. If you’ve never had a lime grown in a backyard, you have no idea how good Persian limes are supposed to be. Key limes are good for cooking. Kaffir limes produce leaves you can cook with. Ruby red grapefruit are great for juice or eating with a spoon.

Why anyone would pick the trees currently dying in my side yard is a mystery.

I need to have a county agent come out and confirm that they’re sick. Then down they come. Sad, but citrus is being eradicated all over the world, and it’s best to get it over with and plant something else.

There is a new greening-resistant fruit called a Sugar Belle. It’s sort of like a tangelo, but I think it’s more acidic. I may see if I can get a couple of trees. They’re patented, so you probably can’t pick one up at Home Depot.

If you didn’t know citrus was being wiped out by a plague, sorry to break it to you. Enjoy it while you can. The plague is global, so eventually citrus will be hard to find.

I plan to cut some of the hopeless shrubs around this place and put in blackberries and raspberries. I should get on that immediately.

Years from now, right before I die, this should be a very nicely landscaped farm.

I’ll try to post photos next time. Hopefully no gore.

“Water Table”?

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

I Usually Drink Mine Standing Up

Good day today. I accomplished nothing whatsoever until after 1 p.m., and I call that a victory. Then Amanda dropped by, and she graciously helped me move boxes from the kitchen to the upstairs storage room. Since the move, I had been hoping elves would break in and move them, but they didn’t show up, so I resorted to physical exertion. Thank God I’m not the only one who suffered. I know how to treat a guest.

After Amanda left (I was out of jobs for her to do), I took her advice and used a new weapon on my immortal live oak stumps. She told me a fascinating story about the house she and her once-husband bought. The original owner built it around a tree. Smart! When the tree grew, the house mysteriously remained the same size, so something had to be done. Amanda and Co. paid someone to cut the tree and lift it out of the house, but the cable snapped, and it fell on the roof.

Anyway, she ended up with a stump that would not die. She used Roundup and I know not what else, and nothing happened. She then pinned her tree person down, perhaps physically, and forced him to tell her the real solution. It was two words: motor oil.

Roundup does not do a great job of killing stumps, and the hippies would much prefer seeing our houses replaced by useless trees to having us taint the precious water table with one part per billion of oil, so we don’t hear a lot about motor oil. Now I know the secret, so I used it.

I read up on it on the web. If what I read is correct, other petroleum products will work. One such product is diesel, which I always have on hand. You drill holes in your stump and you fill them with diesel.

I do not have a really good cordless drill right now, so I decided to bore-cut my stumps with a chainsaw. Beats dragging a generator across the yard. I fired up my little Jonsered and plunged into the stumps, scaring the crap out of a number of carpenter ants. I returned with the diesel jug a short time later, and I filled the stumps up. Except for one, which was apparently bottomless. I am now looking forward to seeing the results.

Using the chainsaw was a good move. I think. I don’t want to dull my drill bits on crappy live oaks, and anyway, drills make very small holes. The chainsaw made holes several inches long and about 3/8″ across. That’s a hole that means something.

Is diesel good for the environment? Don’t bother me with trivia. Besides, my well is a good hundred yards away from the stumps, and I drink bottled water.

It would be nice to have a skid steer with one of those stump attachment things. They rip stumps right out of the ground in seconds. But renting one would cost money, and the diesel trick probably cost less than three bucks.

After I treated the stumps, I shocked the pool again and brushed the algae off. I hate pools. When I was a kid, my dad made me clean the pool at our house, and I rarely did what I was supposed to. He didn’t supervise me or anything, and I was the king of all procrastinators, so basically, every month or so, he would explode for an entire day. I can’t tell you how miserable this made me. Not sure why I didn’t respond by doing a better job. You know how kids are. I have been doing as little as possible to maintain our current pool, and it has worked out about as well as you would expect.

After the hurricane, the pool pump clock died. I don’t know if the death was storm-related, but that’s what happened. I replaced the clock, but I bought the wrong model, and it died again. I finally got the right one installed last week. By then, the pool had gone quite a while with irregular pump cycles, including the long period of inactivity that passed before I realized the clock was dead.

I have been keeping the pool alive with shock treatments, hoping I could avoid skimming and vacuuming, but today I gave up and got out the brush and scoop. When I removed leaves from the bottom of the pool (which is fully screened; go figure), little bits of white stuff came up with them. I wondered what it was. Then I realized I was looking at chlorine-eaten organic material. Stuff I had left in the pool had sat on the bottom, slowly turning white. Also, I’m sure a lot of things that would ordinarily have been sucked into the filter went to the bottom when the pump wasn’t working. My guess, at this point, was that this stuff was eating my chlorine. When you put chlorine in a pool, how well it works depends on the job you give it, and if your pool has a lot of crap in it, it’s not going to get much done.

I accepted my fate. I removed whatever I could, and I brushed the whole pool to get the crap into circulation so it would go into the filter. I am hoping I can backwash it out and get rid of it.

Right now the pool is about as inviting as Chernobyl the day after the accident. I’m pretty sure it will glow at night with or without the pool light. I did not skimp on the chlorine. It’s downright poisonous. That’s fine with me. I don’t care if anyone ever gets to use it. I just want it to be blue and clear.

Maybe I could have it filled with blue lucite. That’s genius.

I also checked my burn pile. I put some big logs on it yesterday, and in the evening, I poured nine gallons of water on it to put it out. This afternoon it was going great guns. It had come back to life. Maybe burn piles aren’t for big logs.

Tomorrow my plans include eating Mike-Sell’s Puffcorn Delites and possibly poisoning my pond. Hope your day is equally fulfilling.

In the House of my Friends

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

With Christian Brothers Like These, who Needs Pagans?

It is Sunday morning, and I am not at church. Praise the Lord.

I suppose I sound cynical. In reality, I would like to attend church. I’ve been looking around online. I say, “Praise the Lord,” because I’ve been part of two cults in a row, and I’m glad I’m not currently being mistreated and milked by any preachers.

Marion County is filled with churches. It seems like everyone I meet is a Christian. That’s the reason the people here are so nice. I’m surrounded by churches, which is good, but I still have to be careful. I can’t just flop down in a chair in the first church I see, because I run the risk of being pumped full of greed-based Joel Osteen/T.D. Jakes/Benny Hinn/Paula White nonsense. Did I mention enough preachers by name? I want to offend as many people as I can.

I look at websites. I rule out all the websites that say, “We believe every individual is filled with the Holy Spirit at the moment he accepts Jesus.” That’s code for, “We can’t get the baptism with the Holy Spirit, so we pretend it doesn’t exist.” I rule out the “Jesus is cool” churches. If I wanted to go to church with confused non-black kids who dress and act like rappers, I’d go back to Miami. And tattoo preachers…no. If you got tattoos before you were saved, and now you can’t afford to remove them, fine, but if you seriously believe God wants you to look like the funny papers, you are way out of God’s will, and if I get around you, I will expect to be taught lies and possibly chastised for not “sanctioning your buffoonery” (to steal a line from Tommy Lee Jones).

I reject all churches that say members have to tithe. Tithing is for Jews, not Christians. Any church that gets excited about tithing is run by a pastor who is a) afraid God will let him go broke, or b) obsessed with money.

I saw a church with a site that advertised the importance of keeping the Sabbath. Not for me. The Sabbath is Saturday, not Sunday, and Gentiles have never been required to observe it. It’s a Jewish thing. It’s great to set aside a day for God, but pretending it’s the Sabbath, or claiming we are required to do it, is legalism and possibly replacement theology.

My plan, as I have said before, is to sit in the back, give just enough money to pull my weight, and be quiet. No volunteering. No church office for me. I want to meet Christians, but I don’t want to get into any more squabbles with carnal preachers and their spoiled wives or kids. I never want to feel that I can’t go home at a moment’s notice, or that I have to refrain from speaking the truth in order to avoid offending a preacher who is driven by greed or pride.

I saw a place that doesn’t look too bad, but they had a video of a lady screaming and waving her arms because…Holy Spirit. That’s not how it works. God doesn’t take away your self-control. The devil does. Self-control is listed in the Bible as a fruit of the Spirit. If you’ve ever been “slain in the Spirit” and rolled on the floor at church, you need to know that God didn’t make you do it.

I just had a thought. Imagine visiting heaven. Suppose God takes you up and shows you what happens there. You look out over the host of angels and the saved human beings…and they’re all screaming like monkeys, waving their arms and legs, and rolling on the ground.

Really?

Is heaven a mental ward?

If you wave your arms and scream in church, it’s not God. You’re just that kind of person.

Prayer in tongues sounds silly, and it’s normal to react to God’s presence with some odd facial expressions and semi-involuntary sounds. That ought to suffice. You don’t need to do the gator.

In all likelihood, I will not find a church that doesn’t have significant problems. I do hope God leads me to one that isn’t completely nuts.

Things are going well between God and me here at home. God keeps showing me things. And he does some impressive deeds. Remember how I burned myself and then had the blister disappear? It appears to be happening again. I keep finding new ways to burn myself on chainsaws. Yesterday I learned that you can burn yourself on the chain. I started a saw and ran it a little bit to warm it up, and then I tried to sharpen it. I grabbed the chain to move it forward, and a searing, inexplicable pain shot up my thumb. I let go and looked. My thumb was burned. Dang it. How do you prevent injuries when you don’t know they can happen in the first place? I didn’t know saw chains could get hot.

I work very hard to protect myself. I study tool safety. I read up on poison ivy. I wear pretty decent protective clothing and gear. When I cut trees, I do my best to figure out which way they’ll go after they’re severed, and I prepare. Then I burn myself on a saw chain. Come on. Is that even fair?

Anyhow, I kept working, and I prayed and commanded my flesh to be healed and so on. I kept thanking God. Over the day, the pain decreased. By the time I went to bed, the burned area seemed flatter and less messed up. I checked it just now, and I had to look for it. I am hoping the healing continues.

I am not satisfied to leave it as it is. Should I grovel and drool and stop praying? Should I say I’m so grateful for what I have, I should be ashamed to ask for more? In short, no. If I did that, the primary reasons would be laziness and lack of faith. I don’t want to spend the day praying and thanking and so on, because I’m lazy, and I’m afraid God won’t finish the job, because I lack faith. The thing to do is to keep going forward and see that God gets as much glory as possible, even if I’m perfectly content with what has already happened.

Jesus didn’t do any half-healings.

Interesting thing…I told my friend Amanda about the other blister that healed, and not long after that, she burned herself. She fought it supernaturally, and it went away. No mark. No blister. How about that?

My character is still disappointing. That’s to be expected. I made self-corruption my special project for half a century, and I did a great job. God has definitely improved me, however, and I look forward to being substantially less contemptible.

My friend Mike is coming down tomorrow to spend a few days. I look forward to that because Mike knows a lot about construction, and I want him to fix my chicken house for nothing he’s a good friend, and I haven’t seen him in a while. He lived near Ocala for a long time. He and his dad raised racehorses. He loves this place and wants to move back. He’ll be beside himself the whole time he’s here. He’ll get to have Krystals and Sonny’s BBQ. He’ll get to go to Rural King. Maybe I’ll let him drive the tractor. No, I think I’ll just let him sit in the seat with the ignition off and go “VROOM VROOM.”

Along with Amanda, Mike has been very helpful with my turbulent Ocala transition. They disagree on one issue, however, and that is the goat question. I would like to have a couple of goats here to eat weeds. Mike thinks it’s a good idea. When I mention it to Amanda, her head spins 720 degrees and flames shoot out of her eye sockets.

I think she’s against it.

We will agree on a few things, however. Sonny’s. Krystal. Rural King. Sonic. Carhartt. Mike-Sell’s Puffcorn Delites. We agree that Miami is a swollen can of pus.

Next weekend, I am virtually certain to be in Miami. Disgusting. Has to be done, however. Miami, like a colonoscopy, is one of those things that has to be confronted head-on. So to speak. I hope I’m not there long enough to let the stink rub off on me.

I have to paint a rental condo. If things go really badly, this is a six-hour job. I know that from experience. The materials cost eighty bucks. Possibly a hundred, if I need primer. The slackjaws in Miami want $2000 for this service. Unacceptable. I’ve painted many condos, and I can’t stomach that price. I figure I’ll paint as much of it as I can, and then even if I have to pay someone to finish it, they’ll be ashamed to charge me a lot.

Well, let’s be serious. It’s hard to shame a slackjaw.

The tree removal work is going well here, but I can see that I’m not going to get the county to move much of the debris. It would take me months to get it to the highway, and I have only weeks.

Yesterday I cut a couple of big oaks that fell by my fence. I cut one section about seven feet long and two feet thick. I tried to roll it onto the timberjack so I could cut it in pieces that might be small enough for the tractor to carry, but I couldn’t do it. I’ll be more accurate here: I could not do it at a level of exertion I considered safe. I refuse to exert myself hard enough to injure myself. I push to something like 75% of my capacity, and after that, I figure it’s time for a helper or a new tool. I don’t want artificial hips or knees, and I don’t want a bad back.

I have a number of oaks just as heavy as the one I worked on yesterday, so progress will be slow. Maybe there’s a better machine for the job. I could rent something once I have all the wood cut up. I should look into that.

I think it’s time to consider the unthinkable: serious exercise. I may get some weights. I don’t want to be so flubbery and soft I get hurt easily. My current workout is paying off about a hundred times as well as expected. I operate one exercise bike with my hands and another with my feet, for a weekly total of about half an hour. Unlike the rest of humanity, I am treated to a full view of myself in the bathroom mirror as I get into and out of the shower, and I am not the same person I was three months ago. But weights would be much better for strength.

I have a Bowflex, which is a fine machine for lazy people who are happy with moderate improvement (me), but I don’t know if it’s possible to get real strength out of it. I have not tried lately. I need to move it out of the garage. I forgot to have the movers (slackjaws par excellence) do it.

In the past, I refused to think about resuming weight training because I was so lazy I knew I would not persist. Now, however, I am getting used to a higher level of mandatory activity, and lifting weights a few times a week would not be much of an increase.

I have to move logs. I have to lift full fuel containers and hold them while I fuel machinery. A little extra strength would be helpful.

When I was in law school, I was pretty sturdy. I maxed out all the machines at the University of Miami Wellness Center. Now I feel like it’s a victory when it only takes me three tries to get out of a chair.

One great thing about exercise equipment is that it’s cheap. Very few people buy it and the use it. Generally, it ends up being used to hold clothing on hangers. I should be able to do quite well on Craigslist for a couple of hundred bucks.

I better get with it. The day is slipping away, in spite of the death of Daylight Saving Time.

Hope your Sunday is going well.

I Love Work Clothes

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Oh, the Irony

I am procrastinating. Shame on me. I should be doing bookkeeping or moving downed trees, but today I made myself pancakes with grade B syrup and several “bacon steaks” from the meat lab at the University of Florida, and I am still enjoying the afterglow too much to work.

The Ocala assimilation process continues to flow seamlessly. Yesterday I received some new duds I ordered, and my wardrobe is coming together. I got some Wrangler chambray work shirts, a Carhartt belt, and two more pairs of Carhartt jeans. Today I’m wearing the jeans and belt with Keen work boots and Wigwam El-pine wool socks, and I wonder why people aren’t born wearing these things.

I’m not sure, but I think my last two belts were from Old Navy, which means they were made from Chinese dogs. They were okay for Miami, but up here I wear heavier pants that exert more pull. Cheap belts stretch and deform. The Carhartt belt is very hard and tough, so it ought to last longer and work better. I got a 34, and I have a few empty notches on it, so if I lose more weight, I should still be able to wear it.

It will look better than a cheap belt. A belt which is stretched and distorted looks sloppy.

As for the jeans, I’m not sure why anyone wears anything but Carhartt. They have triple seams and six (not four) belt loops, and the waistband is at the waist, not just above the crotch. Very comfortable.

I like the Keen boots. I think Danners are a little better. My Danners are some comfortable I hate to take them off. But the Keens have a cut-resistant toe cap thing on them, which is good when you’re cutting trees.

I have not ironed the Wrangler shirts yet. I never wear a shirt until I’ve washed it. Brand new clothes smell funny and make me itch. I don’t know if I’ll like the snaps, but it was hard to find a simple chambray work shirt, and Wrangler makes them, so I’m trying them.

My second Carhartt jacket should be here tomorrow. I don’t know if I really needed it. The one I have seems to be comfortable in 60-degree weather. It’s not too warm when I’m sitting around. But I’m afraid it will be too hot in mild weather if I exert myself in it.

I wore a fleece jacket the other day. I don’t like it. Not for outdoor work. Things catch on it, and it won’t stand up to abrasion. It will also tear easily, and it absorbs water very quickly. Fleece is overrated.

Well-made work clothes are vastly superior to crap from Old Navy, Timberland, and The Gap, and the cost is roughly the same. I should have started wearing this stuff 30 years ago.

A tree guy came by today to look at the giant, unstable branches I need to have removed. He wasn’t a jerk about it. He only wants $300 per tree. He won’t be back for two weeks, so let’s hope no one dies in the meantime.

I keep learning about poison ivy. It appears likely that one of my troublesome trees has a poison ivy vine on it. I always thought poison ivy was a small plant, but it turns out it can grow into huge, woody vines so thick you can swing on them. The tipoff is tiny hairlike roots growing out of the sides of the vine. Even if you can’t see the leaves, those hairs prove you’re looking at poison ivy. I can deal with little plants I can kill with spray, but how do you kill a giant vine without contaminating your tools? A chainsaw won’t work. The sap will get into the chain.

I’m thinking I should use a hoe to scrape the vines open. Then I can spray Roundup into the cuts. Bark protects plants from Roundup, but if you can get it past the bark, the plants will die. A hoe blade is easy to wash.

I see the Hollywood sex mess is spreading. One of the good things about it is that it’s causing people to expose their complicity inadvertently. George Clooney and Matt Damon issued ridiculous, self-praising statements condemning Weinstein, and people jumped on them, saying they obviously knew what was going on and did nothing. Now Clooney and Damon are lying low and cancelling public appearances. Rosie O’Donnell attacked Kevin Spacey, saying “we all knew.” Intelligent people are pointing out that this means she helped Spacey commit more offenses. If she had said something, maybe he would have been stopped.

Eventually, if there is any common sense in the world at all, the public will come to realize that the majority of Hollywood performers and behind-the-scenes professionals who are not newcomers are fully aware that the system tolerates abuse, and the public will hold them accountable for shielding the predators with silence. It’s very simple. People in Hollywood are terrified of losing their coveted jobs, so they kept quiet about perverts and bullies. There is no other plausible explanation for the systematic abuse.

Hollywood is a funny place. They’re very gung-ho about the pro-homosexuality “anti-bullying” message, but they suck up to bullies who commit sexual crimes. Kevin Spacey is a bully. James Toback is a bully. The fact that sex was involved doesn’t turn bullying into something else. Will the anti-bullying people acknowledge this?

Abusers don’t just mistreat others. They force intimacy on them. Abusers are often exhibitionists. They touch people without permission. They don’t respect boundaries. It’s very natural that many of them should express themselves through sexual acts. Maybe they don’t respect boundaries because they don’t see other people as fully real. They don’t realize we feel and think. They’re too self-absorbed. It makes sense that bullies grope and rape, because bullying is very much like rape. It’s a violation.

We should all be examining ourselves and repenting, in the hope that God will judge us privately instead of hitting us over the head with public disgrace. But in Hollywood, that’s not an option, because Hollywood people hate God.

I wonder if the inquisition will extend into the past. CBS journalist Mike Wallace had a reputation for gross, arrogant, boundary-shattering behavior with female employees. Will he be outed? Bob Hope used to make crude remarks about Doris Day. Shirley Temple was abused. There are rumors that Kirk Douglas raped Natalie Wood. Will the bodies be exhumed, or will the crusaders be content to bring down the living? If Thomas Jefferson and George Washington aren’t safe, I guess Mike Wallace is fair game.

I’m glad I’m not famous and that my sins aren’t worse than they are.

I better fire up the golf cart and cut some wood. Those pancakes were great.

The Adventures of Tractor Man

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

Strange Visitor from the Planet Diesel

I feel like I got nothing at all done today, but when I list my achievements, they sound pretty good. I applied Roundup to every plant I could find that resembled poison oak or poison ivy. I used it to kill a young magnolia and a bunch of small live oaks. I also took a bag of Amdro fire ant granules and nuked our mounds. I bush-hogged a big percentage of the big pasture. I also cleared a lot more oak branches away and put them on the burn pile, which was still smoldering from yesterday. I put several gallons of water on the pile to keep it from flaring up again. I ordered a new garbage disposal for a tenant. I ordered myself another Carhartt jacket, in a lighter weight than the one I already have. I need something I can work in, when the weather is between 40 and 60 degrees. On top of all that, I took my dad to Tractor Supply and made sure he had a good lightweight jacket of his own. It’s going to be 39 degrees here tonight.

I’m not sure if we have poison oak and poison ivy or not, but I found a bunch of plants that look a whole lot like the pictures on the Internet. I had to stop clearing hurricane debris because of them. I read up on poison ivy to make sure I didn’t expose myself to it.

I read something reassuring: you don’t get poison ivy just from touching it lightly. The contact has to be sufficient to get urushiol, the poisonous compound in poison ivy, on you. The best way to get it is to break something so the juice comes out.

Anyway, I am being very judicious about what I touch when I move debris, and I use the tractor’s forks by themselves when I can. In the areas where I sprayed Roundup, I plan to leave things alone. Maybe I can go back in when the plants have had time to die and rot. You can’t burn them, and you can’t handle them when they’re dead, because the urushiol takes years to break down. I figure rot is the easiest solution.

The Internet says one of the best ways to get a rash is to get urushiol on your tools or gloves and then touch them later, so I am trying very hard to keep my gloves away from my eyes and nose.

I don’t know how strongly I react to poison ivy, but I am not in a hurry to find out. Mangoes contain urushiol, and some people can’t go near them. Supposedly, there is urushiol in mango skin. I’ve skinned a zillion mangoes, and they never bothered me. But I am not anxious to be my own guinea pig in an experiment that causes a horrible rash that lasts two weeks.

I suppose I got enough done today.

My big problem these days isn’t getting things done. It’s getting to bed on time. I hate to go to bed. I enjoy the things I do so much, I don’t want to quit. When I know it’s time to quit, I linger and procrastinate. I wish I could go out and cut some downed trees right now.

The lifestyle here suits me perfectly. I love the work clothes; Carhartt and Danner should pay me to endorse them. I have come to feel nervous when I’m not wearing a ball cap; if I find myself leaving the house without my Tractor Supply cap, I go back in and look for it. I love the tools. Everyone should have a tractor with a front end loader. I didn’t realize how incomplete I was without one. A man with a good-sized tractor is a superhero. Lift a compressor? No problem. Pull a tree down? Hold my beer and watch.

My parents should never have left Kentucky. Being a Southerner is what it’s all about. It’s just better. Period. No wonder so many people want Confederate flags. What we have is great, and what other symbol do we have to celebrate it? Maybe a flag with Colonel Sanders’ face on it. Or the flag of Jesusland.

It may sound weird that I enjoy life this much when I’m so solitary, but it doesn’t bother me at all.

It’s late. Time to knock off.

I’ll try to take more photos in the future. It’s inconvenient to take my gloves off, but I’ll work on it.

The Single Man and the Widowmaker

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Sawing Away at Life’s Problems

Today I got to work on my tree situation. Areas of the farm that used to be inaccessible because of standing water and mosquitoes are open for business, so I took my pole saw and tractor and made some excursions.

Two oaks by the highway to my east were giving me problems. They both snapped about 25 feet from the ground.

One tree had several major branches, and only one branch snapped. That left a tree maybe fifty feet tall, with a torn place halfway up. The part of the tree above the place where the branch tore out appears to be resting in a crotch between two branches of a taller tree. I think the place where the branch tore out is too weak to hold the remaining branch up for long. If it comes out, it could conceivably fall on the highway, which could be very bad. The broken part was lying on my fence, threatening to break it.

The other tree only had one main trunk, and that trunk snapped. It didn’t detach at the break. It was hanging down onto my fence. I would guess the broken part was 25 feet long and weighed several hundred pounds. It was not in danger of hitting the highway, but I wanted it off my fence before it ruined it.

I considered calling a tree service to cut both trees. Tree surgeons call objects that threaten to fall when you cut trees “widowmakers,” and I was dealing with three of them: the snapped-off branches plus the branch with the weakened support. I was afraid that if I tried to cut them, they would find ways to swing toward me and kill me, which was not the outcome I wanted. I thought I had finally found tree problems I could not fix.

I decided to see what I could do. I took the tractor and backed it up to the broken tree that only had one trunk. I cut off as much of the ground side of the broken bit as I could. I put a tow strap on the end of it and took off with the tractor. The broken part came loose at the top and slid down quite a bit, and I was able to cut it up with the pole saw, until nothing was left on my side of the fence except for cut-up wood. I still had maybe 12 feet of trunk outside the fence, but it’s not going to hurt anything. No one walks out there in the weeds. I can take my time dealing with it.

I was able to nibble away at the fallen part of the other tree until nothing big remained inside the fence. When I cut it free from the fence, it swung toward the road, but it wasn’t long enough to go anywhere near it, so it ended up leaning on the tree’s trunk. Now I can put a strap on it, yank it down so it lies on its side, and either cut it up or just leave it for the county.

The top of that tree is something I can’t handle. It’s way up there. The tree people may need a bucket that goes up 40 feet to get to the parts they need to cut. I know when to quit. But I think I did myself a big favor by getting the broken part off the fence. Instead of telling them to deal with the whole tree, I can have them cut off the scary part way above the ground. That’s a smaller job, and it should be cheaper.

I would rather pay $500 than $2000. It’s worth it to reduce the work I leave to paid help.

I also have a widowmaker in my front yard. It appeared as though by magic a few days ago. I would say the break is about 40 feet up. It’s the main trunk of a tall, straight tree. The broken part is maybe 15 feet long, and it’s heavy. It’s just hanging there. I keep hoping it will fall by itself. If I could get a rope on the low end, I could pull it down with the tractor, but it’s way up in the air. That distance may end up costing me hundreds of dollars. If I could get the broken part down, I could handle the rest of the job and not pay a dime. There ought to be a safe way to do it. Surely someone has invented some kind of grappling hook for grabbing trees. If it cost me a hundred bucks, it would be a bargain.

I need something I can attach while standing to the side of the tree. If I’m under it, and I accidentally bring the widowmaker down early, I’ll be in trouble.

Tomorrow I will have to call the tree people and see what they can do for me. I can’t just sit around and see where these things fall. The one by the highway has to be fixed ASAP. I can wait longer to deal with the one in the yard, but it would be awkward if someone were crushed to death before I arrived at a solution.

After I did what I could with these two trees, I took the pole saw deeper into the property and started working on some other trees. In about an hour, I did an amazing amount of work. The pole saw allowed me to cut dangerous branches and trunks up to nine inches thick, without risking my life. It’s one of the best tools I’ve ever seen. I felled a rotten oak with it and bucked it so I could move it off a dirt road. I cut major limbs off a fairly large downed oak and fixed it so it was no longer applying pressure to the trunk of a young maple I want to keep. I had another oak that had snapped maybe 15 feet up, and the place where it had snapped was still hung up. I cut away at the grounded end until the part that was suspended crashed down to the ground. Now I can buck it and move it.

I also slaughtered every small live oak I could see. I hate those things. I will not let them reach maturity. I’m making room for maples and pecans to fill. From now on, I plan to kill every oak sapling I see, unless I can think of a good reason to let it live.

The pole saw is actually more useful than my 20″ chainsaw.

I am growing disenchanted with the raw woods I loved at first. Woods down here are buggy. They’re weedy. They’re full of spider webs with 3-inch spiders suspended at face level. They contain a lot of undesirable species, like live oaks. Now that Irma has knocked over a lot of my big trees, I’m thinking I should give up on the idea of having a wilderness area and try to create some tamed woods. I can get rid of the bad trees and weeds and plant some better ones. Instead of having thick woods that look beaten up, I can have thinner woods that have been put in some kind of order, with more grassy areas. I can put bamboo around the perimeter to restore my privacy.

If I can get a bamboo wall to work, I can live without the woods. The main purpose of the woods is to provide seclusion. A 20-foot-high wall of bamboo with no breaks will do a better job of providing seclusion than a bunch of stringy oaks that fall over every time it rains. It would actually be really neat. And if a tree falls on a bamboo hedge, no problem. Bamboo grows back very quickly.

A lot of people have thick, ugly hedges here to shut out the world. They look pretty bad. Bamboo is pretty. It looks elegant. Remember Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? I have to find out how hardy it is, though. If bugs eat it, there is no point in trying.

I don’t know what I’m doing, but I feel like I’m headed toward a solution.

I’ll try to post more photos. This stuff can be pretty dull when it’s all text.

The Thrill of Normal North American Weather

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Long Pants Now an Option

I finally got the treat I was waiting for: WINTER!

“It’s fall,” you’re saying. But it was 57 degrees here this morning, and I came here from Miami, where 57 degrees means winter.

Why would anyone want winter? Because I’m sick of having 85-degree days and 80-degree nights…in December. I’m sick of having long-sleeved clothes I can’t wear. I’m sick of not being able to ride my motorcycles because the protective gear is too hot.

In Miami, the air always smells like warm, dirty laundry because of the heat and humidity, and you can’t enjoy yourself outdoors if you’re doing anything strenuous, because after five minutes, sweat soaks through your clothes and runs into your eyes.

Up here I spend a lot of time cutting trees and moving the wood with my tractor. Try that in 90-degree weather. No fun whatsoever. You take your shirt off at the end of the day, you drop it on the bathroom floor, and it goes, “PLOP.” Nasty. And the mosquitoes love hot, wet weather.

It’s after 10 a.m., and it’s still only 62 degrees. I look forward to not sweating or feeling miserable out there.

When you work in hot weather, you feel much more tired. Your body makes you feel tired, artificially, to prevent you from exerting yourself enough to overheat. When the weather cools down, you feel more physically fit even though you’re not. Your endurance and strength increase. You need that when you’re moving trees.

Most people don’t realize heat makes you tired. I figured it out during a summer move in the 1990’s. I had a box of Otter Pops in the freezer (similar to Kool Pops), and I noticed that my energy surged whenever I ate one. After that, I learned to take crushed ice with me to the gym. You eat it during cardiovascular workouts, and it lets you work much harder.

Ice is very hard to melt. It takes one calorie to heat one gram of water one degree Celsius. It takes 80 calories to melt one gram of ice. When you swallow ice at the gym, your body has to pump a huge amount of heat into it. That heat comes from your blood, and the heat in your blood comes from your muscles. Try it and see how much better you feel.

Anyway, I was suffering before the weather changed. Now I should be much more efficient, and the bugs should be dying off, as they deserve.

In other news, I am watching the Hollywood sex-abuse holocaust expand. It just moved to Washington. Some minor actress says Bush I groped her from his wheelchair, and he doesn’t deny it. She says a guy who was working security told her she shouldn’t have stood next to him. Can you imagine that? He’s so crazed with lust, it’s not safe to get within arm’s reach of his chair. Apparently, he’s like the crazy old priest from Father Ted. I never would have guessed.

It’s kind of funny, because the Bushes aren’t very conservative. For decades, people have whispered that the Bushes are liberals who run as conservatives because that’s the easiest way for them to get elected. Bush I is a big homosexuality supporter, and so is Bush II. Back in the 90’s, it was rumored that Bush I was pro-abortion and Bill Clinton was pro-life, but that they ignored their personal convictions in order to please the people who kept them in power. In any case, a Bush I scandal is more of a bruise to liberals than conservatives.

The Hollywood branch of the scandal is blossoming. About 200 women have accused a director named Toback of sexual crimes, and some guy who directed George Clooney is accused of sexual abuse, verbal abuse, and beating people. Supposedly, Clooney challenged him physically over picking on underlings, and they got in a tussle on a set. Guess who else is piping up? Surprise! Corey Feldman. Who didn’t see that coming. He says he’s going to shake the pedophile tree until everyone falls out.

The big problem with Feldman is credibility. He kissed up to Charlie Sheen during the tiger’s blood mess, and no one in his right mind thinks Charlie Sheen is innocent of, well, anything. One gets the impression that Feldman’s remarks about abuse have a lot to do with advancing his own career and very little to do with justice. Sheen was a big player, and Feldman rolled over and showed him his belly, at the worst possible time.

Maybe he really believes Sheen has been maligned, but I don’t trust Feldman, so I won’t believe anything he says unless there is some corroboration or the story seems sound on its own feet.

We haven’t heard much about pedophilia during these last few weeks, yet we all know it’s a big problem in Hollywood. Why are the abusers still protected? Maybe stage parents are hushing their kids up. Maybe older people who were abused as kids are ashamed to talk. Also, a lot of the rumored perpetrators are still very powerful. Consider Bryan Singer. He’s powerful AND homosexual, so God help anyone who says a word against him. He is more sacred than the Virgin Mary.

Hollywood will be a very interesting place if power shifts from lust-crazed, sociopathic men to shrill, attention-craving, narcissistic women with raging victim complexes. Imagine the horrible movies we’ll be subjected to. It will be an endless series of sorry spectacles in the vein of Fried Green Tomatoes, Steel Magnolias, The Turning Point, Terms of Endearment, and The Handmaid’s Tale. If that happens, you will need a skid steer to get men into a movie theater.

Maybe God is helping Christians by weakening the moneyed allies of the leftist political establishment, to slow down the encroachment of leftist totalitarianism. That would be nice, because one day this country will go full-throttle socialist, and not long after that, we’ll see the labor camps and killing fields, and it will be a very bad time to be white. Maybe God will bless me, and I’ll be dead when that happens. That would be great.

Some people think we can fight the left with guns and rallies, but those are natural tools, and our problems are supernatural. We aren’t humble. We love sin. We don’t pray. We have cut America’s ties to God’s protection. All the AK-47’s in the world can’t protect what God has exposed, and personally, I would rather go ahead and die than sit in my yard all day with a rifle. When it comes to that, there will be nothing worth fighting over. I’m not sure there is anything worth fighting over right now.

Take it, socialists. Take it all. Kill us off and send us to a better place, and enjoy the worthless, depreciating trinkets you stole from us as you age, wither, and die. You’ll wish you hadn’t, but that’s not our problem.

We would all be in heaven, and we would never have to hear the word “Antifa” or the phrase “global warming” again. We would never have to see another Gloria Allred press conference or read a news story about Kathy Griffin. No more toxic femininity, in our faces 24/7. That’s a win.

I don’t know what to think of the men who are being exposed. I’ve committed my share of sexual sins, and I don’t know how I would cope with seeing them exposed on major websites and on the TV news. I can’t help pitying people who are under the gun right now. On the other hand, sociopaths don’t feel shame, so their pain is nothing like what I would feel. They’re just upset over the loss of money, power, and admiration. Maybe there isn’t much suffering to pity.

To take one example, unless Harvey Weinstein goes to prison, the worst thing he’ll have to deal with is dying rich without a major role in the entertainment industry. That’s not much of a punishment. He won’t even have to give up fornication. He’ll just have to quit fornicating with actresses, and he’ll have to get consent.

Now that I think about it, conservatives have one major iron in the fire: Bill O’Reilly. At least he used to be major. Bill doesn’t need liberal enemies. He is destroying his legacy all by himself. He got Fox to pay Lis Wiehl $32 million for just one of his many harassment claims, and he still says the whole sex thing is a leftist smear. Worse, he invokes his kids, who are probably very humiliated. He says he made Fox pay in order to spare his kids embarrassment. That’s pretty clearly a lie. He also invoked Eric Bolling’s dead son, much to Mr. Bolling’s ire and disgust. The odds that Bill isn’t pretty much what his detractors say he is are just about nil, but he continues to blame the world, and he has even blamed God. He said, “You know, am I mad at God? Yeah, I’m mad at him. I wish I had more protection. I wish this stuff didn’t happen. I can’t explain it to you. Yeah, I’m mad at him.”

Not encouraging. God is not wrong, Bill. You are attacking the only person who can help you.

We hate terrorists who use kids as shields, and Bill knows that, but look what he’s doing. In his panic and what appears to be self-worshiping rage, he has lost all sense of decency. He has no idea how he looks to other people when he uses these contemptible defenses. When news of his defense tactics came out, champagne corks must have popped all over Manhattan.

I’ve seen two of Bill’s alleged victims, and maybe I should not say this, but I’m surprised by his taste in women. He went to work every day with Lauren Green, Kiran Chetry, Shannon Bream, and a host of other beauties, but look who got him in trouble: Andrea Mackris and Lis Wiehl.

I have to think about cool-weather work clothes, so I better quit procrastinating and get out there. I hope your day is as pleasant as mine.

Hurry up With That Wrench, Larry

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

John Deere Manuals are Full of Little Jokes

Yesterday I really screwed up. I tried to do the responsible thing, reading a machinery manual instead of doing things however seemed right at the time. I should have known better!

I have a John Deere 430 garden tractor with a mower deck. I don’t know why it’s called a deck. It’s a big flat attachment that connects to the underside of the tractor. You can’t stand on it, like a ship’s deck or the deck behind your house. In any case, it probably weighs over 200 pounds, and it has three blades on it. Once in a while, the blades have to be sharpened.

My yard is bahia grass. This is a somewhat disappointing, very tall grass which a friend of mine has compared to leather. It’s very tough. When I first arrived here, I started using the mower, and it seemed like it was pushing the grass over on its side and tearing some of it. It did not appear to be cutting very well. I read somewhere that bahia grass requires very sharp blades, so I resolved to figure out how to sharpen mine. Also, I hit a stump or an exposed rock the first time I mowed, and I felt like I needed to see what it had done to the deck. A big spark shot across the yard when I hit the obstruction, and I assumed that was a bad thing.

The previous owner said he used ramps to lift the mower so he could work on it. That seemed like a bad idea, so I looked at the manual. I was aware that farm machinery manuals tend to be highly optimistic (i.e. full of it) concerning the difficulty of servicing equipment, but I decided to take a chance. The manual said you pull some pins, turn a lever, disconnect the PTO driveshaft, turn the wheels, remove one wheel and slide the deck out. Child’s play!

Yeah.

My first bad move was to put the tractor on grass. I was going to have to flip the deck over once I got it out, and I did not want to do that on concrete. I did not consider the immense difficulty of moving a heavy item on three smallish wheels on soft dirt. But before I get to that, I will talk about the other problems.

First, there is a bizarre assembly with two arms on it, attached to the front of the tractor. The arms attach to the deck from the front. You have to push a pin and pull a lever to make the front of the attachment drop out. No problem! I tried to push the pin. It was frozen. I banged on it with a punch. When I finally got it moving, it bounced. It was a spring-loaded pin with a detent you have to activate to hold it in the out position, and the detent doesn’t work, so it keeps popping back into the hole, preventing the lever from turning.

When I mastered that, I found that the lever did not want to turn. The lever turns a rod with two circular flanges on it, and the flanges fit between two flat plates. The engineers in Japan apparently decided it was important to have tremendous friction between the plates and the outsides of the flanges, so they made them with an interference fit. Picture an axle with two wheels (the flanges), turned by a lever on the hub of one wheel. Then picture two brick walls, pressed up against the wheels from outside.

Turning the lever was impossible, until I got out my 3-foot pipe wrench. What about a breaker bar? Well, the lever points downward when you get it rotated, so a breaker bar would be pointed toward the center of the earth. In order to avoid obstruction, the bar would have to be about an inch and a half long, defeating the purpose of increasing leverage.

I got the attachment to fall, and then I pried out the spring-loaded J-pins that held the arms onto the deck. They’re supposed to move freely. Ha.

I got all the other pins out, and then I had to remove the driveshaft from the PTO. The driveshaft telescopes “freely” (again, ha), and there is a collar on the front end that compresses some ball detents to keep it in place. The collar moves…freely. Unless it’s impacted with thick, black, greasy dust from mowing. I had to work it and work it. I pulled the deck backward and forward by hand. I moved the tractor up and back. Finally, the coupling fell off the PTO.

When I had everything loose, I pulled the deck sideways in the soft dirt, which was not easy at all, and then the little gearbox in the middle of the deck hit the inside of the frame of the tractor.

To get this stupid thing out, you have to jack the tractor up maybe two inches. This is not in the manual. John Deere’s little joke.

No problem. I had a farm jack.

I put the farm jack on the right front axle and started raising the tractor. As I raised it, the jack leaned closer and closer to the cowling. Great. It was going to gouge the crap out of it. I found a towel and shoved it in there and continued jacking.

Eventually, I got the deck to slide out, and then I decided to lower the tractor for safety reasons. It would not budge. It was perfectly happy to go up. Down was not an option.

I went to the shop PC and got on the web. Guess what? Farm jacks freeze up so they can only be raised. There are two sprung pins in the mechanism, and whenever you use your farm jack, you’re supposed to lube the snot out of them before you start. Otherwise, you can end up with a heavy load suspended in the air, with no way to get it down.

I used WD-40 and lithium grease (because WD-40 evaporates), and I got the jack to work.

I have a policy of never lifting anything heavy. First of all, lifting is work. Apart from that, it’s a great way to ruin your old age. One lift can screw up up for life. Unfortunately, I had no help, so I picked up the front of the deck and rolled it on its back. I will not be doing that next time. If it had been fifteen pounds heavier, I don’t know if I could have done it.

The blades were held on by three huge hex bolts. I tried a wrench, but they were on there pretty good, and it was just about impossible to hold the blades still. When I turned one bolt, all three blades moved. I got out my impact wrench and fired up the small compressor, and thanks be to God, the bolts came right out.

The blades didn’t look bad at all. I saw a John Deere manual online, and it said the cutting edge was supposed to be a flat surface 0.4 mm wide. In other words, much duller than a butter knife. I have no idea why that would be desirable. I would guess that the unsharpened blades were considerably sharper than that when I took them off. I wasn’t having it. I went to my small belt grinder and created edges that were sharp enough to slice bologna. It’s not easy to put a really good edge on steel that thick. I was satisfied. I went through the horror of disassembling and detaching the deck, backward, and after maybe 3 hours of work, total, I had a tractor ready to mow.

Supposedly, you should use a torque wrench to put mower blades back on. Yeah, sure. Thanks for that great tip. I’m all over it.

I used the impact wrench.

I still have a lot of sticks and twigs in my enormous yard because of Hurricane Irma. I asked some forum people if I needed a landscape rake, and one said I should just run over the twigs with the mower. I decided to take his advice. Now I know how to fix blades, so I don’t care what happens to them. I ran right over everything I saw, up to 3/4″ in thickness. Whatever the blades hit, they dealt with. Good enough.

Hmm…the Internet says this deck weighs 300 pounds. Yeah, that feels about right.

There was one bright spot in my ordeal. The smiley spider from my front door showed up to help. I am told his name is Larry. Not sure how helpful he was, but it was good to know he was in my corner.

Larry says I should get a smiley tattoo to match his own, but for the moment I have decided to pass.

I Need a Blue Ox

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Tree Removal Continues

Today we had another day of fall-like weather. It was in the mid-70’s, with little sun. I was pretty happy about that, because I have about 5 years’ worth of tree removal work ahead of me, and doing it in 90-degree heat is not much fun.

I have two big oaks that fell as one. They are pointing in the same direction, and one is (was) on top of the other. Cutting them up is an intimidating job. The trunk of the upper oak was above shoulder height, so that ruled out a typical chainsaw cut. You don’t use a chainsaw for cuts that high, because if it swings down, it will have a lot of momentum, and it can hit your legs. Worse, you could Jennerize yourself.

Another problem: cutting the upper trunk near the base would cause it to fall on the lower trunk, and from there, who knows where it would bounce?

I solved the problem using my fun new technique: the bore cut. You shove the chainsaw through the middle of the tree, leaving “straps” above and below the tunnel. I didn’t have to lift the saw that high to do this.

When you cut a tree, you end up with one side in tension and one side in compression. For example, imagine a horizontal log. The weight pulls on the top fibers and tries to push the bottom ones together. If you cut too far on the compression side, the tree will close on your saw, and then you get to have fun trying to extract it. This has happened to me several times in spite of my efforts to avoid it. Sometimes trees surprise you.

I kept cutting the upper tree until the trunk was suspended in space. That put tension on the top and compression on the bottom, down by the base. I cut up into the tree from the bottom, making a kerf maybe five inches deep. Then I pounded two plastic wedges into it. Wedges hold kerfs open while you work. You don’t want metal wedges for this purpose. You use plastic, because every so often, you’re going to hit a wedge with your saw.

I made a bore cut through the tree, above the kerf with the wedges, separated from the kerf by material intended to form a hinge. I left a little strap up at the top to hold the tree up while I switched saws. I got my pole saw, stood at a relatively safe distance, and cut into the strap. The trunk fell straight down, and I was in business.

This method, with variations, works on all sorts of stressed trees.

I’ve been studying the crap out of tree-cutting methods on Youtube, because I don’t want to be crushed or mutilated any more than is necessary. If you’re using a chainsaw, and you haven’t studied, well, people like you make a lot of money for hospitals.

I’m not the perfect example of chainsaw safety. I don’t have chaps, and I don’t wear a face shield. But I’m considerably better off than a guy who thinks testosterone is a good substitute for brains.

The timberjack I bought is a huge help. I can take a log that weighs hundreds of pounds and flip it over with one end suspended in the air, without exerting myself at all. Green live oak is extremely heavy. It’s so heavy, one piece I cut came close to straining the tractor’s front end loader. With the timberjack, I can cut everything in small pieces I can move.

I have to get these two oaks moved, because they have been blocking the dirt road to my east gate. I need to use that gate to move logs to the swale by the highway, where the county will pick them up for nothing. Today I got to the point where both oaks were cut in pieces. My big saw ran out of gas while I was finishing up the lower log, so I left my wedges in the log and called it a day.

Thanks to the weather, I can wear long pants while I work. My legs aren’t getting cut any more. I’m not bleeding at all. That’s a nice change.

I got myself two probationary pairs of Carhartt jeans, because the local stores had a crappy selection of overalls (my first choice). The jeans are great. I have Carhartt work pants, but they’re too nice for cutting trees, and they have to be ironed. Jeans are more practical. I have a pair of overalls on the way via Amazon, and if they work out, I’ll get more.

Overalls should be ideal for this kind of work. Coveralls would be better if the weather were cooler. Bark scrapes bare arms up pretty good. But overalls will do. I need something that permits freedom of movement and has lots of pockets. Naturally, I ordered Carhartt. Their other products are so good, the overalls must be good, too.

I have owned many pairs of Levi’s in my life, but now I look down on them. They have a number of problems. First, the cotton is cheap and weak. It’s not made to last. It’s made to wear out early so little girls will have cute rips that expose their knees. Second, Levi’s don’t sit at the waist. They sit below the waist. Your waist is about at the level of your belly button. Every time you bend, Levi’s cut into you because of the unfortunate location of the belt line. Final thing, Levi’s don’t have a lot of pockets.

Carhartt stuff is not made to look good on little girls. It’s made to last. If it doesn’t last, the company goes bust. The quality is much better than Levi’s, and the price is lower. That’s how I see it.

I decided to order a second pair of boots. I can’t stop myself. My Danner Vicious boots are wonderful, but when I’m wearing long pants, I don’t need 8″ boots. I can get by with shorter ones, which are lighter. I decided to try a pair of Keens. Some Keen boots are made in China, and it looks like they aren’t the ones you should get. I ordered some American jobs. We’ll see how they work out.

I never buy Timberlands. I’ve had two pairs of Timberland boots, and they were both disappointing. They’re fine for rappers, I guess. If all you do is rap and stand in police lineups, you don’t need comfortable boots that last.

The Danners and the Keens are waterproof and have crushproof toes. If I roll a 400-pound log onto my foot, I want something other than leather between me and the wood.

I can’t wait to start dumping logs by the road. Burning them is helpful, but it will take me the rest of my life to burn all the wood I’m discarding.

I think the farm is in good enough shape to resume cattle raising. I have to come up with some kind of agricultural operation unless I want to pay serious property tax, and this place is already set up for cattle. I don’t have a lot of interest in raising cattle, but you go with what works. I am told I can get a tax reduction with two tiny dwarf Brahmas. That should be easy.

Question: do people eat dwarf cattle? I could actually see the appeal in little rib eyes. A rib eye is no good at all unless it’s at least 1-1/2″ thick, but a steak like that weighs 2 pounds, which is a lot. Maybe a dwarf rib eye would be more practical.

I believe that customarily, people here put useless animals on their land and do nothing worthwhile with them. It would be perfectly okay to buy two tiny steers and let them live here until they die of old age. But it seems weird.

Amanda keeps telling me goats are the livestock from hell, but it would be very nice to have a couple to eat weeds.

I’ll try to put up some photos. I’m pretty pooped. Even though it was cool today, I drank about 72 ounces of beverages when I was done working (within a period of a few minutes), and I have yet to see the customary evidence of overcoming dehydration.

I hate Miami more than I can say, and I pity everyone who lives there, although I would rather see most of them live there than here. This place is wonderful.

I will work on the photos now. If you see a tiny orange dot on top of the lower trunk in the first photo, that’s my big 60-cc saw. Tells you how big the tree is.

This is the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

There is a Cure for Miami

I am enjoying Ocala to the point where I almost wonder if something is wrong with me.

When I moved here, the movers screwed up badly. My dad insisted on going for a drive and got lost on the day of the move. My dad overdosed on pills he was supposed to let me measure out for him, and he ended up in the hospital for several days. Hurricane Irma hit me with tropical storm winds and knocked over lots of big trees on the farm. The power went out. I had to bathe in buckets of pool water. The main AC unit in the house died, and we had to fork out $6800. A tenant broke a lease in Miami, and we had to pay $5000 to fix the apartment. Hurricane Irma messed up a yacht I really needed to sell.

Plus it was ungodly hot during the day, and the mosquitoes were so big and numerous they practically lifted me off the ground when I went outside.

It was a bad start.

Now I have a lot of my stuff here. I made a trip to Miami, and a friend also went down and brought things back. The boat sold for more than I expected. I have three chain saws, and I’ve learned how to move a lot of wood in a hurry. The air is drying up, and the weather is cooler. The bugs are going away.

Finally I can enjoy this place.

When you join a moronic street gang, they “jump you in” and “jump you out.” That means they give you a beating when you join, and if you leave, you get another beating. Satan seems to work the same way. Simply moving back to Miami in 1997 was a beating. This year I left again, and the God of Losers came at me again. That’s how I see it.

Whatever. The suffering I endured doesn’t really compare to the eternal roasting my enemy is going to get.

Today I went out to the shop to start my day of hurricane mess recovery, and I felt the cool breeze hit me as I stood on the porch (My shop has a porch!) and opened the door. A crazy wave of pleasure hit me. I was overcome. It’s gross and trite to compare everyday pleasures to sex, but that’s what I thought of. Something went through me and left me a little dizzy.

Today I lit up the burn pile again. I also sharpened the pole saw and made my way into the middle of my woods. I have a bunch of big downed trees in there. I’ve been reluctant to take them on because of the bugs, heat, and standing water. Today was the right day.

I found out a neighbor had cleared away 90% of a big oak that had fallen on a fence. That was nice. I don’t have access to the DMZ between our fences, so I was dreading looking him up and asking how I could get in. Evidently he did not consider me accountable for my tree’s behavior. All I have to deal with is the stump.

I found several trees which fell near each other. Some were on top of each other. I took out the pole saw and got to work. I put in around 3 hours. I murdered those trees. Because the pole saw is so safe to use, and because it can reach things several feet away and things that are over my head, I had access to all sorts of branches that would have been a problem for a chain saw. I cut the crap out of the trees and made a giant pile of limbs and logs.

I had my trusty timberjack with me. What a great tool. It makes short work of heavy logs I could not have dealt with a week ago. They used to be a real pain. Now they’re a joke.

Within a week or two, I should have a clear path to the gate on the highway. Once that happens, I’ll be able to use the tractor to take wood out through the gate and dump it for the county to pick up. I won’t have to burn it!

I’m sad that I lost trees, but just about all of them were worthless oaks. I can plant pecans or something.

Maybe I should do something with that lot. I don’t know how many desirable trees are on it. I like the woods, but maybe I should consider a plan with fewer trees and more grass. Maybe there are pecans and other trees there that I could assist by cutting oaks, and then I could thin out the brush and put in grass.

I do not like seeing the neighbors. I’ve read that bamboo will grow up and form a thick hedge in a year or two. Maybe I should plant a couple hundred feet along the fence line. Bamboo looks really nice, and on top of that, the canes are useful for certain things.

While I was hacking away at a tree, I hit something and knocked the chain off the pole saw bar. It was time to quit anyway, so I headed back to the shop. I had two bottles of cold water from the Rockstar fridge, a Pellegrino orange soda, and an egg cream. It’s amazing how much water you sweat out while using the saws. I sat in one of the shop’s entrances in a plastic Adirondack chair, facing the woods, enjoying my beverages. The breeze blew through the shop and kept me cool. Too much. I loved it.

I goofed off. I texted and called friends. The only thing missing was a smoker with a few ribs in it.

I was so right about this place. That tells me the idea came from God. When I have my trees cleaned up and my bamboo installed, I’ll be the big daddy king of all eccentric hermits.

Some day this will be a place for prayer meetings and God knows what else. Until then I’ll enjoy myself getting it ready.

I just can’t hate Miami enough.

Sorry for not taking photos. I was too engrossed. Maybe next time.